“Splice” DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

10/09/2010 Posted by Admin


DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

Directed by Vincenzo Natali, written by Natalie, Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor, 104 minutes, rated R.

By Christopher Smith

Well, then, now we have the happy  horror movie “Splice,” just available on DVD and Blu-ray disc.  It's about the perils of science and egos and bad childhoods and abuse, and how they all culminate in a film that has a provocative beginning, but which soon shoots off the rails to pick up a few dust balls of disgust.

Be forewarned--after watching it, some might feel dirty upon leaving their television screens. And I’m pretty sure that’s the point. So, um, good for the fimmmakers!

Director Vincenzo Natli co-wrote the script with Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor, and what they created is a movie that unnerves for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is that its subject plunges into the hazy depths of genetic engineering, where cells and DNA are fused together in an effort to create all sorts of things that probably shouldn’t be, but suddenly are. And then what are we to do with them?

Throughout, parallels from James Whale’s 1931 film “Frankenstein” to David Cronenberg’s 1986 film “The Fly” to Roger Donaldson’s 1995 movie “Species” abound, but Natali goes a step farther in that he doesn’t make his leads at all likable, which might be an additional cautionary comment on all that occurs in his movie.

The film follows Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley), who enjoy a working relationship as well as a romantic one. They are scientists at some vague laboratory that hopes to get rich by creating new, slimy creatures that possess the correct sort of proteins that will help cure all sorts of ills. Like cancer. That sort of thing.

Sounds noble until you catch a glimpse of what they’ve kept secret from the public, and that would be the poor creatures apparently here to help save mankind. Secrecy is, in fact, part of what this movie is about. What goes on behind the locked doors of certain labs? As consumers, are we fully aware of the questionable choices some make in an effort to sustain life?

Presumably, we have government watchdogs for that, but does the general public really know how our prescription drugs are created? Maybe. Maybe not. What is true is that the scientists behind them know, and here’s the thing--what if key elements of those drugs came from the juices of some freak creature composed in a lab? Would you knock back a pill if you knew it came from some genetically engineered, breathing blob? Maybe. Maybe not. So, best to package that pill neatly and market it properly.

Trouble is, when ambitious Elsa decides to mix her own DNA with the DNA of any number of animals, we get something altogether different. At first, Elsa’s creation looks like a plucked capon with a human-like head, three fingers and a barbed tail nobody wants to mess with.

Quickly, the creature grows, and as it does, its more human elements are emphasized. The conundrum rests there. The more human the creature appears, the more blurred the lines become about how Elsa and Clive choose to treat it.

At first, Clive is repelled by what Elsa created--he questions her ethics. But Elsa isn’t having any of it. Soon, she names the creature Dren, which is “Nerd” spelled backwards (how clever), and look, before you know it Dren is wearing a party dress and peeping like a bird in Elsa’s arms. Cue the mother-daughter issues. Hell, cue the human-interspecies issues, because when Dren grows up, she’s got legs up to here, kisses down to there, and in spite of her chicken hooves and magnificent wingspan, she’s kind of hot in a Sinead O’Connor kind of way.

What unfolds is all too much to fathom and bear, mostly because of the cruelty Dren endures when Elsa becomes the mother from hell and decides to mistreat Dren when Dren is caught having sex with Elsa’s man. Think that’s weird? Oh, the weirdness doesn’t stop there. There are all sorts of other crude twists the movie takes, the lot of which we’ll leave for the screen to reveal, but each step Natali takes down this cinematic rat hole of his leads him further away from what’s plausible to what’s just a bloody rush of science fiction.

In the end, “Splice” becomes a circus of the insane, and with nobody here to root for save for Dren, a confused thing whose biggest and most repellent surprise is revealed at the end, the movie crosses too many lines and morphs into something of a morbid curiosity. It’s not Dren’s fault that we’re pushed away from it, but we are, and in the face of that, this initially promising movie falters.

Grade: C+

View the movie trailer for "Splice" below. What are your thoughts of the film?

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